Brother and Sister

My brother, Noah, with his wife, Lindsey.
My brother, Noah, with his wife, Lindsey.

One of the best gifts of these summers in Seattle are times that I get to spend with my siblings, Noah and Holly Dahlstrom. Below are two unconnected, but still brilliant, examples of their greatness. I feel blessed to share some of the summer with them, and even more grateful to be the sister of two such extraordinary people.

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 (NASB)

Around 10:00 AM, we’re scrambling to the top of Liberty Bell Mountain. We’ve come this early to avoid the heat, and our early ascent came at a cost: it was before four when my brother, Noah, woke his wife and me from where we’d camped a few miles down the road. Now, six hours later, we’re on the top, 360 degrees of the North Cascades greeting us with a stone-toothed grin.

I’ve never climbed this mountain, though I looked at it often for a great portion of my life. Liberty Bell Mountain is a popular destination of among alpine climbers, but its sheer proximity to Alaythia Fellowship, where I grew up in the Upper Skagit Valley, made me jump at the chance when Noah offered to take me along on this climb.

I’ve climbed behind him all day, watching in amazement the disciplined and precise actions of someone who knows this art, and knows it well. There are no wasted words or movements, just careful decisions that are calm and reassuring. Though an early foray into climbing has all but numbed my fear of heights, I still feel safer a thousand feet up on this edge than I would otherwise. Not just a master climber, Noah is a patient teacher and confident guide, and he’s made this day grand beyond imagining.

Holly36 hours later, I find myself in a concert venue in Seattle, this time to hear Holly play violin and viola, sing and tap dance with her band, Friends and Family. I haven’t heard them live in three years, and though their music is familiar, their showmanship has improved remarkably since then. The band has gotten a great deal of local positive press lately, reviews lauding them for their energy, intelligence, honesty and joy. One blogger wrote that “Friends and Family are from another Seattle, a Seattle where people read books, make jokes, and sometimes sweat from doing things other than bicycling.” High praise in a city of lackadaisical, many-layered irony.

For the greater amplification of her percussive feet, Holly stands on a platform that puts her a head taller than the lead singer, so she’s front, center, and tall on this stage. The music sharp and bright, just as excellent as I remember, but mostly I’m mesmerized watching my sister perform with the earnestness and yes, joy, of a seasoned musician. She plays and sings with skill and poise, as much in her element here as Noah at the top of Liberty Bell.

And it’s these elements that make me thankful, spending time with both of my siblings, as I realize God has given them both gifts and settings in which to use them. Both excel and find great fulfillment in what they’re doing, and it’s beautiful to see. I see it in my students, too, in the energy and excitement that they invest in basketball, in running, in writing, in ceramics. I love to see this marriage of passion and context, which leads these people I love to work hard with deep joy. It’s a gift, one that I see in my own life in teaching, and one that I’m happy to discover here too, this summer with my siblings.


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